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Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Two hundred years ago, the words to what has become our national anthem were first set to paper. On Sept. 14, 1814, a 35-year-old Washington lawyer composed a succession of rhyming questions about the fate of his young nation engaged in a perilous fight.

The United States declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812. Most of us know that conflict as the War of 1812; some historians call it the Second Revolutionary War. Things were going badly for the American side. In late August of 1814, the British had captured Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Treasury, State, and War Department buildings, as well as other civic structures. They marched south to Maryland, taking hostages as they went. These hostages, including one Dr. William Beanes, were held on British ships offshore.

Attorney Francis Scott Key was charged with bringing about the release of his friend, Dr. Beanes. His negotiations were successful, but his timing was unfortunate. He was aboard a British ship when battle plans were drawn up. The captain informed Key that Beanes and he would not be allowed to go ashore until the battle was over. They would be kept under guard on their own ship for the duration.

Everyone knew that taking Baltimore, a vital international port of about 50,000 residents, would effectively split the United States in half. British troops on the ground tried but were repulsed. After that, it was the British Navy’s turn. Their strategy was to take Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. If they did that, Baltimore would be undefended from invasion by sea.

Nineteen British warships rode at anchor in Chesapeake Bay just outside the range of Fort McHenry’s guns. They started firing just before dawn on Sept. 13. Over the next 25 hours, they rained more than 1,500 shells and rockets onto the fort.

Baltimoreans had expected the battle and had been readying themselves for months. New flags for the fort were among the preparations. Major George Armistead, the commanding officer, wanted “a flag so large that the British [would] have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.” He got his wish. Mary Young Pickersgill, a well-known flag maker in Baltimore, fashioned two flags of “first-quality bunting”: a smaller storm flag and a larger garrison flag with a hoist of 30 feet and a fly of 42. The 15 stripes of the greater flag were two feet wide, and the 15 stars were two feet from point to point.

From a 60-foot sloop on the Patapsco River, about eight miles from Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment, which killed four Americans and wounded 24. After the assault, he waited anxiously on deck for the sun to rise. He’d seen the storm flag flying in the previous sunset. To his joy, he saw that Armistead had raised the momentous garrison flag. The battle for control of Baltimore was over, and the Americans had won!

As the sun rose on the scene on the morning of Sept. 14, 1814, Key, an amateur poet, poured his emotions into his four-stanza poem. Titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” those verses were later renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They were soon set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” composed by John Stafford Smith. The coalescence became popular instantly.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” plays a vital role in our national identity. Our idea of nationhood is made possible by symbols that spark a unifying imagination — the ability of a far-reaching, diverse people to see itself as a truly united United States. The stars and stripes and the song exalting that banner are essential components of American hopes and aspirations, our strivings and our dreamings. No flag sewn by Betsy Ross is known to exist today. But, fragile and worn by battle and years, the flag that inspired our national song endures in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington.

Lederer and McCullagh’s new title is “American Trivia Quiz Book” (Gibbs Smith).